AUSTIN, Texas — After the Texas Longhorns started spring practice in shorts on Monday, head coach Tom Herman met with the media for the first time since National Signing Day in February.
Senior wide receiver John Burt wasn’t at practice on Monday and won’t return to the team until preseason camp begins in August. Because Burt is a standout hurdler, the coaches want him to focus on his track season, as he’s running well right now — he finished fifth in the finals of the 60m hurdles at the NCAA indoor championships on Friday.
A toe injury limited Burst last season, so he played in four games while redshirting, making one catch for nine yards against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. When he gets back on the football field, he could help provide some explosiveness that was sorely lacking in that regard last season.
Several players were unsurprisingly in green non-contact jerseys, including sophomore linebacker Caleb Johnson (shoulder) and junior defensive end Marquez Bimage (shoulder), as well as freshman De’Gabriel Floyd (undisclosed).
And beyond the medical retirement of Patrick Hudson, there was some new information from Herman.
Senior wide receiver Devin Duvernay is dealing with a stress reaction in his pubic bone that bothered him last season detected when the shorts that skill players wear during workouts recorded a deficiency in how some of his leg muscles were firing, so he underwent an MRI that revealed the cause. He missed the last two weeks of winter conditioning, but is expected back after spring break.
Johnson is expected back after spring break, too, while senior wide receiver Collin Johnson won’t return any earlier than the final week of spring practice after undergoing knee surgery. In previous news, senior safety Brandon Jones won’t participate at all this spring due to ankle surgery.
Another absent player from practice was redshirt freshman defensive tackle Keondre Coburn, who is undergoing blood tests regarding his kidney function after experiencing issues for a second time in seven months. Herman said the “prognosis is obviously good” because Coburn played in multiple games last season, but did call it “concerning.”
Herman also revealed that former standout defensive back Nathan Vasher, who tied the school record for career interceptions with 17 and went on to have a successful career in the NFL, is back at Texas as a volunteer coach. Vasher earned his degree back in 2014 and served as a student assistant at the end of the Mack Brown era. He’s also worked with the Bears and served as the cornerbacks coach at Trinity.
The school also recently announced the additions of four new analysts to the support staff, including former North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora. Herman didn’t really have a previous relationship with Fedora before hiring him for the job, which includes helping with game planning during the season. Right now, Herman has asked Fedora for input about how the Tar Heels ran certain run-pass options, for instance, but has mostly focused on how Fedora runs practice compared to how the Longhorns run practice.
When asked about players whose development impressed Herman, sophomore B-backer Joseph Ossai was the first name mentioned. Herman also brought up redshirt freshman defensive lineman Daniel Carson, who was listed at 260 pounds out of high school, but is now over 300 pounds, according to Herman.
Along the offensive line, redshirt junior offensive guard Tope Imade is listed at 345 pounds, the heaviest player on the team, but he’s only 15-percent body fat. Other offensive linemen have added weight, as well, including redshirt freshman offensive tackle Reese Moore, who is now over 300 pounds. So is redshirt freshman offensive guard Junior Angilau.
Listed at 295 pounds for a second straight year, Herman said that redshirt sophomore Sam Cosmi, who moved to left tackle in practice on Monday, is up to 292 pounds. The goal is to reach 300 pounds by the time the season starts.
Freshman wide receiver Bru McCoy, who has already added some good weight since arriving at the end of January, was an expected topic of conversation, but Herman didn’t have an update about his potential eligibility other than to say that he’s preparing to play. McCoy has already impressed the coaching staff with his dedication in the weight room. Now he’s getting a chance to do so on the field, where he’ll work at X receiver due to Johnson’s absence and in the slot. Due to the absences of Burt and Duvernay, McCoy also lined up at Z receiver on Monday.
Herman is excited about a one-time potential contender for that role in the slot, as he said that he can’t wait to see freshman running back Jordan Whittington in pads because the Cuero product looked so “natural” on Monday.
One position battle that Herman mentioned is at nickel back will be between junior Josh Thompson and sophomore BJ Foster. Thompson has more experience there, as he started one game at nickel back last season, but Foster probably has the physicality advantage at a position that defensive coordinator Todd Orlando wants to have some punch to beat blockers.